I have thought of it all these years as the “Forceman Library,” but looking it up now, I see it was the Julius Forstmann library, in Passaic, N.J. I went there every day with my grandmother during the golden summer I spent with her at age 9, when my parents were in India and I was too young to join my older siblings at camp.
Every day, we stopped for library books – the Blue Fairy Book, the Red Fairy Book, the others in Andrew Lang’s series, the L. Frank Baum Oz books, the Ruth Plumly Thompson sequels, and so on through the summer.
My grandmother loved, years later, telling my husband-to-be how I would lie sideways in my grandfather’s armchair all afternoon after our outing, head on one armrest and feet on another, devouring the literary catch of the day. Books were all that interested me. In retrospect, that made me easy to care for, but I don’t know that I had ever been indulged so thoroughly.
My grandmother, Pearl Goldfarb, died today, at age 95. I know she treasured having me that summer, but is hard to say how happy her life had been overall. She was a talented artist, but her father deemed art impractical. He told her she had to be a teacher instead of a painter, and she obeyed. Her talents and loves, at least in her formative years, were not indulged.
It seems so simple, to love reading. It bothers no one, it requires no one else. As a child, though, it is not entirely solitary. Someone had to drive me to the library, to give me those uninterrupted afternoon hours, to say with pride that her granddaughter had read every book in the Forstmann library. I don’t know why the correct spelling never registered with me, but I would guess it was because I never had to find my own way there; my grandmother was always a step ahead to smooth my path. As a child, that’s the part of the story that I never saw.